What"s the Difference?

In English us use the word "combination" loosely, without reasoning if the order of things is important. In other words:

"My fruit salad is a combination of apples, grapes and also bananas" us don"t care what stimulate the fruits are in, castle could also be "bananas, grapes and also apples" or "grapes, apples and bananas", its the very same fruit salad.

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"The combination to the safe is 472". Now we do care around the order. "724" won"t work, nor will "247". It needs to be exactly 4-7-2.

So, in math we use an ext precise language:

as soon as the order doesn"t matter, the is a Combination. When the stimulate does matter it is a Permutation.


So, we should really contact this a "Permutation Lock"!

In other words:

A Permutation is an ordered Combination.

To aid you to remember, think "Permutation ... Position"


There are basically two types of permutation:

Repetition is Allowed: such as the lock above. It could be "333". No Repetition: for instance the an initial three people in a to run race. Girlfriend can"t be first and second.

1. Permutations v Repetition

These space the most basic to calculate.

When a thing has actually n different varieties ... We have n choices each time!

For example: selecting 3 that those things, the permutations are:

n × n × n (n multiply 3 times)

More generally: picking r of miscellaneous that has actually n different types, the permutations are:

n × n × ... (r times)

(In other words, there space n possibilities for the very first choice, climate there room n possibilites for the second choice, and also so on, multplying each time.)

Which is less complicated to create down utilizing an exponent the r:

n × n × ... (r times) = nr

Example: in the lock above, there space 10 number to choose from (0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) and we select 3 the them:

10 × 10 × ... (3 times) = 103 = 1,000 permutations

So, the formula is simply:

where n is the number of things to pick from,and we select r of them,repetition is allowed,and order matters.

2. Permutations there is no Repetition

In this case, we have to reduce the number of available options each time.


Example: what order can 16 pool balls it is in in?

After choosing, say, number "14" us can"t pick it again.

So, our first choice has 16 possibilites, and our next an option has 15 possibilities, climate 14, 13, 12, 11, ... Etc. And also the full permutations are:

16 × 15 × 14 × 13 × ... = 20,922,789,888,000

But perhaps we don"t desire to pick them all, just 3 of them, and also that is then:

16 × 15 × 14 = 3,360

In various other words, there space 3,360 various ways that 3 swimming pool balls might be arranged out of 16 balls.

Without repetition our choices get lessened each time.

But how do we create that mathematically? Answer: we use the "factorial function"


The factorial function (symbol: !) just means to main point a collection of descending organic numbers. Examples:

4! = 4 × 3 × 2 × 1 = 24 7! = 7 × 6 × 5 × 4 × 3 × 2 × 1 = 5,040 1! = 1
Note: that is normally agreed that 0! = 1. It might seem funny that multiplying no numbers with each other gets us 1, however it helps leveling a many equations.

So, as soon as we want to choose all of the billiard balls the permutations are:

16! = 20,922,789,888,000

But once we desire to pick just 3 us don"t desire to main point after 14. How do we do that? over there is a succinct trick: we division by 13!

16 × 15 × 14 × 13 × 12 × ...13 × 12 × ... = 16 × 15 × 14

That was neat: the 13 × 12 × ... Etc gets "cancelled out", leaving only 16 × 15 × 14.

The formula is written:

n!(n − r)!

where n is the variety of things to choose from,and we choose r the them,no repetitions,order matters.

Example ours "order the 3 the end of 16 pool balls example" is:

16!(16−3)! = 16!13! = 20,922,789,888,0006,227,020,800 = 3,360

(which is simply the exact same as: 16 × 15 × 14 = 3,360)

Example: How numerous ways can very first and 2nd place it is in awarded come 10 people?

10!(10−2)! = 10!8! = 3,628,80040,320 = 90

(which is just the same as: 10 × 9 = 90)


Instead of composing the totality formula, civilization use different notations such together these:

P(n,r) = nPr = nPr = n!(n−r)!


P(10,2) = 9010P2 = 9010P2 = 90


There are likewise two varieties of combinations (remember the order does not matter now):

Repetition is Allowed: such together coins in your pocket (5,5,5,10,10) No Repetition: such together lottery number (2,14,15,27,30,33)

1. Combinations v Repetition

Actually, these space the hardest come explain, so we will certainly come ago to this later.

2. Combinations without Repetition

This is just how lotteries work. The number are attracted one in ~ a time, and if we have actually the lucky numbers (no issue what order) us win!

The easiest way to explain it is to:

assume the the order does issue (ie permutations), then transform it therefore the order does not matter.

Going back to ours pool sphere example, let"s to speak we just want to know which 3 swimming pool balls room chosen, not the order.

We already know that 3 the end of 16 gave us 3,360 permutations.

But countless of those are the exact same to us now, since we don"t care what order!

For example, let united state say balls 1, 2 and 3 room chosen. These are the possibilites:

Order does matter Order doesn"t matter
1 2 31 3 22 1 32 3 13 1 23 2 1 1 2 3

So, the permutations have actually 6 times as many possibilites.

In truth there is an easy means to work-related out how many ways "1 2 3" could be put in order, and we have already talked about it. The answer is:

3! = 3 × 2 × 1 = 6

(Another example: 4 things have the right to be placed in 4! = 4 × 3 × 2 × 1 = 24 different ways, shot it for yourself!)

So we readjust our permutations formula to reduce it through how numerous ways the objects might be in bespeak (because we aren"t interested in their order any kind of more):

n!(n−r)! x 1r! = n!r!(n−r)!

That formula is so crucial it is often just written in huge parentheses choose this:

n!r!(n−r)! = (nr)
where n is the number of things to select from,and we choose r the them,no repetition,order doesn"t matter.

It is often referred to as "n choose r" (such as "16 choose 3")

And is additionally known as the Binomial Coefficient.


All this notations average "n choose r":

C(n,r) = nCr = nCr = (nr) = n!r!(n−r)!

Just psychic the formula:

n!r!(n − r)!

Example: pool Balls (without order)

So, our pool ball instance (now there is no order) is:


= 16!3! × 13!

= 20,922,789,888,0006 × 6,227,020,800

= 560

Notice the formula 16!3! × 13! gives the very same answer as 16!13! × 3!

So selecting 3 balls the end of 16, or selecting 13 balls out of 16, have the same variety of combinations:

16!3!(16−3)! = 16!13!(16−13)! = 16!3! × 13! = 560

In truth the formula is nice and symmetrical:

n!r!(n−r)! = (nr) = (nn−r)

Also, understanding that 16!/13! reduces to 16×15×14, we have the right to save several calculation by doing it this way:


= 33606

= 560

Pascal"s Triangle

We can likewise use Pascal"s Triangle to uncover the values. Go down to row "n" (the peak row is 0), and then follow me "r" places and the worth there is our answer. Here is an extract reflecting row 16:

1. Combinations with Repetition

OK, now we have the right to tackle this one ...


Let united state say there are 5 flavors that icecream: banana, chocolate, lemon, strawberry and also vanilla.

We have the right to have three scoops. How countless variations will there be?

Let"s use letters because that the flavors: b, c, l, s, v. Instance selections include

c, c, c (3 scoops the chocolate) b, l, v (one each of banana, lemon and also vanilla) b, v, v (one the banana, two of vanilla)

(And simply to it is in clear: There room n=5 points to select from, we choose r=3 of them,order does no matter, and also we can repeat!)

Now, i can"t explain directly to you just how to calculation this, however I can show you a special technique that lets you job-related it out.


Think around the ice cream cream being in boxes, we can say "move past the an initial box, then take 3 scoops, then move along 3 more boxes come the end" and we will have 3 scoops of chocolate!

So that is choose we space ordering a robot to gain our ice cream, however it doesn"t readjust anything, us still acquire what us want.

We deserve to write this under as (arrow way move, circle method scoop).

In truth the three examples over can it is in written like this:

c, c, c (3 scoops the chocolate):
b, l, v (one every of banana, lemon and vanilla):
b, v, v (one of banana, 2 of vanilla):

So instead of worrying about different flavors, we have a simpler question: "how numerous different ways deserve to we kinds arrows and also circles?"

Notice that there are constantly 3 one (3 scoops of ice cream) and also 4 arrows (we need to move 4 times to go from the 1st to fifth container).

So (being basic here) there room r + (n−1) positions, and we desire to choose r of lock to have actually circles.

This is choose saying "we have r + (n−1) pool balls and also want to choose r of them". In other words that is now like the pool balls question, yet with slightly readjusted numbers. And we have the right to write it choose this:

(r + n − 1)!r!(n − 1)! = (r + n − 1r)
where n is the number of things to select from,and we pick r that themrepetition allowed,order doesn"t matter.

Interestingly, we have the right to look at the arrows rather of the circles, and say "we have r + (n−1) positions and want to choose (n−1) of lock to have arrows", and the prize is the same:

(r + n − 1)!r!(n − 1)! = (r + n − 1r) = (r + n − 1n − 1)

So, what about our example, what is the answer?

(3+5−1)!3!(5−1)! = 7!3!4! = 50406×24 = 35

There space 35 methods of having 3 scoops from 5 flavors the icecream.

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In Conclusion

Phew, the was a lot come absorb, so probably you can read it again to be sure!

But knowing exactly how these formulas work is only half the battle. Figuring out how to interpret a actual world situation can be fairly hard.

But at least you now know the 4 sports of "Order does/does no matter" and also "Repeats are/are not allowed":

Repeats allowedNo RepeatsPermutations (order matters): Combinations (order doesn"t matter):
nrn!(n − r)!
(r + n − 1)!r!(n − 1)!n!r!(n − r)!

708, 1482, 709, 1483, 747, 1484, 748, 749, 1485, 750
Activity: Subsets